After a tumultuous year and a half at UCLA where alleged conduct detrimental to the team, led to a mutual parting,
former McDonald's All-American Drew Gordon
seems to have finally found his niche at New Mexico after becoming eligible last fall.
In his first season with the Lobos, the power forward was named Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year after posting a terrific line of 18.3 points and 14.8 rebounds per-40 minutes adjusted on 52.7% shooting. The pundits are expecting even bigger things from the senior as he has been tabbed MWC Preseason Player of the Year, with New Mexico the favorite to finish on top of the standings.
Gordon certainly passes the eye test for a power forward in the NBA. At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, he has the bulk and strength to handle the rigors of life in the paint, but also the length and intensity to make his presence felt around the rim. Not terribly explosive vertically, Gordon's timing, aggressiveness, soft hands and nose for the ball are what make him the second best returning rebounder per-40 minutes pace adjusted in our database.
The offensive book on Gordon is a pretty simple one: 89.5% of his shot attempts last season were attempted in the paint according to Synergy Sports Technology. He has a solid base, does an excellent job of establishing position, seals well and displays good touch, all traits scouts like to see from post players.
While clearly a load for opposing MWC teams to handle inside the paint, Gordon isn't terribly efficient as a post-up scorer (.859 points per possession on 41% shooting), which is largely due to his lack of explosiveness.
Despite his soft hands, nimble footwork and good touch, Gordon doesn't do a good job of adapting to the defense. On many possessions it seems as though he determines what he'll do before the basketball is ever delivered, and then follows through regardless of what his defender does or what the angle is. This isn't rare amongst players who were forced to sit out an entire year as Gordon was after transferring from UCLA, so it will be interesting to see how he looks in a full season of action.
As things stand, his back-to-the-basket arsenal includes a nicely developing baby hook along with a solid drop stepbut if unable to simply bully his way to the rim, he just isn't always able to elevate over defenders and finish plays.
While his back to the basket game is unlikely to translate to the highest levels of competition, he's able to score in other waysthrough his work on the offensive glass, moving without the ball and as a pick and roll finisher.
Outside of the paint, Gordon's game is a work in progresshe converted 8 of 25 jumpers according to Synergy Sports Tech. The good news is he doesn't seem to be that far off from being a consistent threat as a mid-range option, something that would definitely give his NBA prospects a boost.
Of the handful of jumpers he did take last season, the bulk came from foul line extended when he rotated behind an attack guard as a safety valve. His shooting form is relatively smooth, just inconsistent in that he tends to not fully extend on his release, leaving the shot short. His free throw shooting marks have improved each year as well (last year: 68%), which is a positive sign.
Gordon rarely will attack off the dribble from the high post, but when he does, things tend to go array if it's anything beyond a one dribble move to the rim.
Improving his shooting and ball-handling skills will be important as he makes the transition from collegiate center to the power forward position, something that will be necessary considering his height.
Defensively, Gordon is mostly a mixed bag at this point, showing both strengths and weaknesses.
He isn't terribly effective defending opposing big men inside the paint, as he gives up post position very easily and shows average toughness and awareness.
Away from the basket, though, Gordon does well defending face-up forwards, showing solid lateral quickness and relying on an above average wingspan to recover effectively and challenge shots inside the paint.
Gordon is an interesting prospect who still needs to show quite a bit in his final season in order to secure a spot in the NBA. What was once a very promising career has obviously taken some unique turns, but he seems to finally be reaching a point he seemed destined to following high school. There's no denying his rebounding prowess and his scoring instincts, but he needs to become a more consistent shooter and low-post defender in order to improve his pro prospects.
The book is still very much out on Gordon, but another season in which he averages a double-double while leading his team to the NCAA tournament would go a long way in helping his cause.